Interview to Carmine "Carlo" Briscese
                       by Renato Mancino                                               
                                                                                   Versione italiana



Venosa is a town found in South Italy, currently home to 13,000 residents. 
The Birth Registers for the City of Venosa in the year 1932 include the birth of a man recorded as Carmine Briscese.
Very far from Venosa, on the other side of the Ocean, the American citizen Carlo Briscese often thinks of the town where he was born, where he spent the days of his youth: Venosa.
    He is the same person: Carmine “Carlo” Briscese, born in Italy and today an American citizen with a name different from that given to him at birth, as is typical custom in the country that he has lived in for many years and has become his new home. Taking a look back on his life, Carmine “Carlo” Briscese relives the dark years of the war, the arrival of the American soldiers in Venosa, the military airfield, the harshness and the difficulties of the post-war life, and he realizes that despite the difficult times he lived through during his younger years when there were no opportunities or certainties, he is a lucky man.  
    Today Carlo is a well-off retiree who lives in the States and, every year returns to Italy for vacation. He is happy with himself and with that he built: and he has good reason to be. He would’ve never imagined that leaving Venosa as an apprentice auto mechanic, he would one day become the owner of a Ferrari licensed garage in Orlando, Florida.
    A noteable result for someone who, in order to escape the severe deprivations of that time, left his family home and his town with the clothes on his back and a cardboard suitcase; someone who, with dedication and intelligence, was so successful in his work that he was able to reach a professional level of excellence. An innate talent for motors, a clever professionalism and a good entrepreneurial ability granted him a life rich of satisfactions and much deserved comfort and security.
    Today, Carlo is proud to tell us his story.
It’s a story of our emigration. One of the many stories of those millions of Italians that from the Unification of Italy in 1860 to today have left our homeland, a land that always lacked bread and work for its children.  A long epic story that recounts the stories of generations of immigrants and their hopes, at times disappointed, at times partially satisfied, and at times as it was with Carlo, dreams that came true with success.


He was still practically a child during the years that immediately followed the war, and this was the moment that he was to begin looking for work. Life was hard in those years and it was necessary to be proactive, and so his father tried to find a craftsman that would be willing to teach Carlo his trade.  This was common practice with all children of his age; if they weren’t sent into the fields to work they would be entrusted as apprentices to the barber, the mason or carpenter or another “master of art.”   
    However, Carlo just wasn’t interested in any of those trades, and began to rebel. He was attracted to motors, and would sit and observe with fascination the garage of Mast’ Rocco Restaino, an expert mechanic of Venosa. 
    Mast’ Rocc, however, already had five boys as apprentices and workers. It would be hard to accept another.  So, even without being part of the workforce of that garage, Carlo would be waiting in front of the garage early in the morning before it even opened, and when Mast’ Rocc had to open the heavy rolling shutter, Carlo would help him. Mast’ Rocc, who was no longer as young as he once was, appreciated the gesture of this willing young man, and in the end, after Carlo’s father also spoke to Mast’ Rocc and asked him to take on his son as an apprentice in his garage, he accepted.
    Thus, Carlo became an apprentice in this garage. He was fascinated by motors and couldn’t wait to learn the secrets of mechanics, however, in the beginning, his duty was to arrive early and... pull up the heavy rolling shutter.



In the following months his true and real professional training began. Mast’Rocc was a real automotive genius, and moreover a passionate teacher . In a short time Carlo learned to remove cylinder heads, grind/polish the valves, change clutch discs, replace brakes.  In his spare time he would listen to his teacher’s theoretical lessons, who would take a pencil and draw the  diagram of diesel motors and the secret of injection pumps and horsepower.  He learned to use the lathe with which he would make gear heads and other precision pieces.
    The customers were not only from Venosa, but they arrived from all the nearby towns. Besides the Ansaldo trucks and Lancia (RO e RO/RO series) trucks, the Alfa Romeo 430 trucks, they repaired other cars: old Balilla’s, Fiat 1100’s, Fiat 1400’s, Lancia Aprilia’s and Lancia Aurelia’s, as well as the first Alfa Romeo 1900.
    All the time Carlo was excited to test himself on new cars and new duties, but Mast’ Rocc restrained his impatience. “Do only what you know – he was always repeating – Never improvise work without first knowing the vehicle. With customers you must be sincere and honest, always.”
    Carlo never forgot any of his teacher’s lessons, and they became the principles he lived by in his work, as well as his life.
    Just 18 years-old, the young mechanic got his driver’s license. He was growing up, and like a puppy becoming an adult, he was eager to face life. And soon, very soon, life would offer him an unexpected opportunity and he would be put to the test.





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One day a priest arrived in Venosa, driving a military truck: one of the many pieces of war memorabilia that littered the streets of Italy. The priest came from the Padri Vocazionisti Institute, in Pianura, in the province of Naples. Who knows how he ended up in Venosa, but it was in Venosa that his truck began to break down. This is how Carlo met Father Giacomino in the garage, thanks to a repair on this old military truck, a Ford 8V: maybe it was a sign of destiny, a destiny that from that day forward would take him far from his home.  
    Father Giacomino told him about the big Orphanage founded by Father Giustino Russolillo and invited Carlo to move there:  they were in need of a good driver and mechanic. Carlo was fascinated by the story and despite the fact that his parents were against this idea, he decided to leave. With very few personal items and one change of clothes, he arrived in Naples by train.
    Following Father Giacomino’s directions, Carlo found the Institute’s Fiat 1100 truck in a garage in the city center and started off toward Pianura. He wasn’t familiar with the roads and Naples at that time was a very dangerous city for a young man not from there to be driving around, but God willing, all ended well. 
    The orphanage was an extraordinary reality. Father Giustino was a charismatic person. Carlo developed a brotherly friendship with him and the young preists and, for a time, considered the idea of becoming a priest as well. His job consisted of accompanying the nuns, with the institute’s truck, in their incessant search of food for the Institute’s young orphans. Sometimes, with an old Lancia Ardea, he accompanied the Institute’s treasurer to Naples, to the government offices to carry out administrative duties.







Nevertheless, this period of serenity had to eventually come to an end. One day Carlo received a card from the Army drafting him for mandatory service that all male citizens were called to. Reluctantly, he left the Institute. After his training period in the city of Orvieto, he was transferred to Cecchignola barracks in Rome. Naturally, the new recruit was sent to the Transport Unit as a mechanic. He attended a training course on diesel motors in the “La Nona Ora” Garage.
    The Italian Army was beginning to receive new trucks from Fiat and would dismantle the trucks leftover from the war. Even in the Army, Carlo continued dismantling cylinder heads and valves: it was clearly his destiny. After his military service, Carlo tried to find work in a garage in Rome. It was not a positive experience and after a few months he decided to return to his Venosa. At this point he felt ready to try opening his own garage and work for himself.  With a partner he opened his very first garage.
    The country was gradually becoming motorized: around town you could see the first motorcycles and Lambretta mopeds. Carlo opened an MV Agusta dealership. For him, working on motors wasn’t just a job, it was a true passion.


Even today, people in Venosa still remember one of his particular endeavours.  By collecting spare parts here and there, Carlo began to assemble some sort of design in his grandfather’s saddler shop. 
    Assembling and reassembling those parts after working hours, he began to construct a motor. Piece after piece, around the motor he added the other components, everything you would need in order to assemble a vehicle: and what a strange type of vehicle... It looked like a monster was taking form in his grandfather’s shop, but in the end it revealed itself to be what it was supposed to be: Carlo had assembled a racing car. From the chassier of a Fiat 1100 he created a race car with an improved motor, manual transmission and double carburetor. But there was a small problem. 
    The race car had grown slowly, bringing one part at a time into the shop, but now it had grown bulky, so much so that it was too big to get it through the doorway...
    In order to get the race car out of the shop and take it for a test drive on the road Carlo had to expand the doorway, demolishing the wall of the building.
    His grandfather never forgave him for this. 




Times, however, were still tough, there were few customers and they often didn’t pay: it was a hard way to live. 
    In the meantime, masses of jobless young adults from his country immigrated towards Milan, Turin, Genoa and other industrialized cities of north Italy in search of work. Many others left for Switzerland, France, Germany or the United Kingdom without knowing even one word of these languages that were so difficult and different from their own.  So, Carlo also decided to try his luck by immigrating to Switzerland. He left the business to his partner and left Venosa.
    It was December and he arrived in the Zurich train station late at night. He didn’t find the person that was supposed to meet him in Zurich.  It was winter and snowing.  The hours passed.  Carlo remained completely alone in the train station, with no money, cold and tired; he didn’t know what to do or what to ask in a language he didn’t know. 
    Once again, destiny was weaving its course. As Carlo’s worries grew, by pure chance, an acquaintance of his from Venosa showed up.  They recognized each other and in an instant a solidarity between people of the same town in a strange country brought them together.  
    Carlo was immediately accompanied to the home of another Venosino, Antonio Doria, where he stayed as a guest. The following day Antonio accompanied him in his search for a job.  They didn’t have much difficulty in the search:  the first garage they came across and asked if there was any work available as in need of, oddly enough, a mechanic.  They agreed on the pay for a one week trial period.  They didn’t even need that one week period.
    Carlo was very skilled in his work, and the owner of the garage, Herr Albert Eichen, knew better than to let him go. Rocco Impusino, an apprentice from Calabria that worked in the same garage, helped him with the difficulties he encountered in the beginning with the german language. The Gross Garage FIAT was a company with five garages, specializing in Italian cars.
    It was the 1960’s. The Automotive industry was growing by leaps and bounds. Carlo perfected his techniques on new motors with double camshafts with v-belts. He had become one of the best mechanics of his company, and in Switzerland life wasn’t so bad. But Carlo’s destiny was to bring him somewhere else.
    In July of 1969 he decided to visit his sister Raffaella, who lived in New York since 1959. Raffaella had married an Italian boy, Gianni Mollica, also a mechanic. Herr Eichen, Carlo’s boss immediately feared that this trip could bring Carlo to America for good. He had great respect and a great fondness for his Italian mechanic and didn’t want to lose him. Carlo assured him that he would return, and so Herr Eichen himself gave the security payment of 5,000 Swiss Francs to the American Consulate so that Carlo could obtain his tourist visa.







So, Carlo arrived in America.
    America! The country he heard so much about when he was a child. The country where his grandmother’s brothers of the Fugarazzo family had immigrated. The country of those soldiers that came to Venosa, during the war, to build the airfield. The country of his american friend, Sargent Sammy Schneider, whom he thought was Killed in Action during one of his missions.   
    That country, as soon as it materialized in front of his eyes, appeared to be exactly as he imagined it to be as a child. He felt as if his destiny was here, waiting for him, and he realized Albert Eichen was correct:  this was his promised land. 
    For that reason, Carlo decided to stay. Quickly they began the process to give him residence. He began to work in New York, in an Alfa Romeo garage in Long Island. When the garage closed, he went to work as head mechanic in another garage in North Country, which also specialized in Italian cars. 
    However, this area of the US had a very harsh climate, with extraordinary snowfalls and Carlo never liked the cold. He began thinking about moving to a warmer place, maybe California, but after a vacation in Forida, the Sunshine State, known for its mild climate, he decided that this would be his destination. It had been decided:  they sold the house in New York  and the whole family – his sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephew - moved to Florida, to Orlando, The City Beautiful.
    At this point it wasn’t difficult for him to find work, with all his knowledge and skill.  He began to work temporarily in a Fiat garage in Orlando, but that wasn’t his dream. His dream was to open his own garage, and in America your dreams come true. A year later he found a piece of property that seemed very suitable, owned by a Seminole Indian willing to sell it. Now all he needed was the money. 
    With his brother-in-law, Carlo went to a bank to obtain a loan for their company. The bank didn’t ask for anything more than their professional qualifications and job references: they didn’t ask for collateral and it wasn’t even necessary to get influential people involved, as would’ve been the case in Italy.
This was America.
    Carlo and Gianni took out a $100,000 loan, bought the lot of land that belonged to the Seminole Indian and began construction on their building. Two years later the dream came true and in 1972 they inaugurated their garage, European Sports Car Service. While Carlo and Gianni worked in the garage, Raffaella was busy as office manager and taking care of administrative work.



The following year they became an Alfa Romeo dealership, a brand whose vehicles weren’t well known at the time, except for the Alfa Spider Duetto. Thanks to the movie,“The Graduate”, by Mike Nichols in 1967, this particular model became a must-have for all young Americans. For many years after that red Duetto, driven by a young Dustin Hoffman in the film, seen racing through the streets to the music of Simon & Garfunkel, remained the most wanted car for generations to come. 
    Even Carlo and Gianni’s dealership saw business spike with the selling of this cult-car. The garage, in the meantime, day by day was filling up with more and more sports cars. Florida, besides California, is one state where you will find a high number of sports cars. Its economy relies on the tourism and entertainment industry. In the Orlando area, on the roads of its 100 lakes, one can see the most beautiful sports cars in America; and among these, Italian specialty cars outshine all others.
    Quickly the garage began to fill up with an exclusive Ferrari-loving clientele made up of rich professionals, fanatics and competitors. Carlo had practiced on Ferrari’s in Switzerland. Thanks to its 12 cylinders and 6 carburetors, the Ferrari had the same carburation system as Alfa Romeo’s. For him, these motors had no secrets and in little time his garage became the most important service center for Ferrari owners in the city, and soon after became the first Ferrari licensed garage in Florida. The inspectors of the Maranello trademark arrived from the Ferrari branch in New Jersey, they recognized the high technical level of the garage and granted them the prestigious trademark: the rampant black horse in a red shield.










In the years that followed, the garage’s activity continued to increase. In 1974 his father and mother also arrived in the States and they would stay there forever. For Carlo it was a great joy to be able to bring his family back together, and to enjoy the love and affection of his parents. Furthermore, for a once rebellious son, it was the moment he had waited so long for: to show to his elderly parents how he had been able to make a life for himself in this country, thousands of miles away from Venosa. Now he truly felt at home. He didn’t feel like an immigrant anymore. It wasn’t the same in Switzerland, where he was often called der Italiener, a word that didn’t always have a positive meaning.
    Here he was just Carlo. America was another world. A country that welcomed you without prejudices, charming you with its melting pot of cultures. America conquered you with its generosity; and in the end, if you so desired, it could belong to you.
    In 1975 Carlo took a short trip to Italy. He had been invited by the Alfa Romeo office of Milan for a presentation of the Nuova Alfetta. This is where he met Franco Cortese, at the time president of Alfa Romeo and the first Ferrari race car driver, a true legend of the racing world.
    Now Carlo, thanks to the level of well-being and confort he had reached, could dedicate himself to his old passion. He put together a racing team that partecipated for years, and with much success, in many competitions. On his team he had a car that belonged to Tony Renis. This environment allowed him to meet and frequent drivers of the calibre of Mario Andretti, F1 1978 World Champion, and people such as Paul Newman and many other Ferrari and racing fans. It was an exciting world, frequented by beautiful girls, sportsmen, rich and famous people, and Carlo was there thanks to his skill and his merits. He became a racing preparer: he was well-known, respected and sought-after by everyone. It was extraordinary. This is what made America extraordinary.
    At this point Carlo Briscese - the young apprentice who once was assembling dubious race cars in his grandfather’s shop - was a person who saw his professional dream come true. His passion had become his job: it’s hard to want more from life. It was the American dream coming true. With his hard work and a lot of courage and determination he reached comfort, security and success. He had earned the right to be happy.   








It was then that Carlo had the desire to return to Venosa. In August of 1978 he returned to Venosa for a brief vacation, destiny was calling him again, and this time it had something special in store for him.
    Lina was a young and pretty schoolteacher, who, at that time, was teaching in Terracina, in central Italy, near Rome. She too was on vacation in Venosa, her hometown. They were both out for a walk with friends when they happened to meet and, like in the movies, it was love at first sight for both.
    In one month they were married and Carlo returned to the States with a wife on his arm.  Lina, after a short adjustment period in this new country spent mostly in the kitchen, began to take on administrative work in the office and in the end became a part of running the garage. But soon, her main job would become another.
    In fact, the family was growing. In 1980 Emanuela was born, and in 1982 MariaCristina, Carlo and Lina’s two daughters. There were now three generations of Briscese under one roof in Florida, starting with Carlo’s father, Teodoro, who now lived with his son in America, along with Lina and now two baby girls.

In the garage, besides Ferrari’s, other prestigious Italian brands were beginning to arrive:  Maserati, Lamborghini. Wonderful cars, beautiful, elegant, but none striking as Ferrari: with the Testa Rossa models, the 348, and Dino Ferrari 246, it was one of the most exclusive status symbol for the American upper class. In 1982 Carlo was invited to Maranello (home of Ferrari brand and factory) to attend a training on the Ferrari 365 Daytona. It was then that he met the legendary Enzo Ferrari, the Drake.  
    Mr. Ferrari asked him where he came from. Carlo never imagined he would one day find himself in front of a living legend, and so, he told him his story. 
    It was an unbelievable feeling. When they parted ways that day, Enzo Ferrari gave Carlo a piece of advice: always be sure to maintain the outstanding reputation Italy has in the world. 
    Carlo related him to his first great teacher, Rocco Restaino. Both were, in their own way, people of reference: two teachers of life.





At that time, European Sports Car Service employed not only the family but also four other employees, three mechanics and a parts manager. Carlo often found himself giving these employees old advice:  “Do only what you know how to do” or “Never improvise work without first knowing the vehicle,” and even: “With customers you must be sincere and honest, always.” The same advice that Mastro Rocco Restaino gave him many years ago, in different country, on another continent. Carlo has always believed that life is a circle that we follow around to be able to give back what we first received. Maybe this is why he knew how to be, during his own time, a great teacher.  
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Carlo has been retired since 2003. He spends his free time taking care of his garden in his beautiful home in Orlando.   
    Every year, with Lina and his daughters, he returns to Venosa to spend part of the summer in the house where he was born, the house he rebuilt and restored and that he still owns to this day, in the square in front of the castle, just a few steps from the midevil fountain with the marble lions.
    The house is antique, maybe as old as the great castle across the street, and has a breezy, shaded archway where Carlo and Lina welcome friends and relatives, chatting without any hurry, like the old times, as was once custom in Venosa.
Carlo is proud to be an American citizen. He loves his new country, the country that opened its arm welcoming him as a son, and generously fulfilled all his hopes. His daughters, Emanuela and Maria Cristina, both live in Orlando, in their own home, 5 minutes from Carlo’s home. They both work at the University of Central Florida. In that country his beloved parents are buried.
    His mother, Emanuela, passed away in 1979 and his father, Teodoro, passed away in 2004, he had just turned 100. The country that today keeps the remains of his loved ones, to Carlo is forever sacred. 
    In the meantime, his hearts remains that of an old venosino, and he really is interested when his friends talk to him about their problems, about work – which is always scarce in Italy – about their sons who are forced to immigrate even today: he through the same problems, he knows them well. 
    Carlo can talk to you and look out into the distance, explaining that you should never lose hope, that you must fight especially when everything is dark and doubtful, without ever giving up. 
    Never giving up on your dreams. Coming from him, someone who travelled a long road before conquering the happiness promised by the American Dream, these words are not in vain and always reach the heart of who is listening. 


Today the garage is rented out. Those in the shop now repair Porsche’s, BMW’s, and in addition, prepare motors for race cars that are sold throughout North America. Ferrari has opened their own service center and showroom now that Carlo has retired
    Even still, many of Carlo’s old customers, friends and Ferrari owners continue to visit him. Just to say hello. To ask his advice. Sometimes asking him to listen to how the motor runs. In their opinion, no one will ever understand a Ferrari motor as well as Carlo. 
Carmine "Carlo" Briscese is also a main person interviewed about the years of WWII in Venosa, on www.storiedelsud.altervista.it, (Pierced Steel Planking: the gates of the war, chapter With the eyes of the children)
English Translation: Emanuela Briscese
Page layout: Pasquale Libutti


    rapacidiurni@infinito.it       Page linked to: www.storiedelsud.altervista.org